Tag Archives: Parents

More about Dad

First, I’m an idiot. Dad was born in 1940, not 1941 as I typed in my earlier post. I’ve changed the title, but it’s one of those silly things where I typed it, stared at it because something seemed wrong, but could never figure out just what it was. Anyway, it’s now on Facebook and Twitter as both 1941 and 1940. 31 July 1940 is his correct birthdate. Sheesh. You’d think I’d know.

Anyway, I’m fascinated to read these two obituaries, one from Larksfield Place where he and mom have lived the past couple of years: http://kotn.org/John-Obit-Larksfield.pdf. It includes the official obituary in the newspaper. Hit me up sometime if you want to know the whole story just how Harry Bear’s logic class helped introduce mom and dad. At least the whole story as they have told me 🙂

The other was written by people at the Kansas State Library: http://kslib.info/Blog.aspx?IID=357#item. This one is especially interesting because it’s a view from people I don’t really know about my dad. Also, I knew my parents got various awards, but it was never something they talked about so I had no idea about these awards that are listed.

I knew about his precedent-shattering time working between Boeing and the State Library. Not only was he the first they extended for a second year, but clearly the first they extended for a third year. Not too shabby.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about my dad’s life is that not long after ending that collaboration between Boeing and the State Library, he suffered a stroke and lost much of his short-term memory. Basically, he never got to really appreciate his retirement. Never got to travel much more after that. Never got to try all the chicken fried steaks and coconut cream pies. Never got to finally rate restaurants by shirt stains.

He never stopped smiling, though, in part because his dad had been such a grump about losing some of his mental faculties, and in part because he was a good guy. Despite that, it was frustrating, because he’d ask the same question over and over because he could never remember the answer. Wasn’t his fault, but my mom had the patience of a saint to answer over and over.

And I never really got to argue with him after he retired. When I grew up, we’d argue over all sorts of things. In this case, argue like Monty Python’s Argument Clinic, where we’d have to defend a point, even if we didn’t really believe it.

It’s still a little surreal, in part because I’ve been out of the house for 30+ years. He’s not really been in my day-to-day life, so as I’m on this trip to ChattaCon and Birka, I hardly miss him as he wouldn’t have been involved anyway. However, as the times come where he would have been around, I suspect it’ll hit even harder. We’ll see.


Rob’s Update: Ghosts

Week of 22-28 January

Greetings all

As many of you read on my blog or my Facebook, my father passed away on Sunday. It was not unexpected, but it has filled this week with contemplation and remembrance.

I’ve been staying with my friend Talina the last few days as she lives almost exactly halfway between Chattanooga and Manchester in Frederick, Maryland. This happens to be an area filled with history, and wallowing in that history as added to the contemplation and remembrance. Today, for example, I worked for several hours at a pub that was originally established in 1783 as Hagan’s Tavern. Then, since it was such a beautiful day, I drove around and ended up at the Antietam battlefield.

The sunken road and Burnside’s Bridge are filled with ghosts. Both were especially bloody places, and it’s easy to see from the terrain why. Odd to walk on that ground. Dad and I often talked about all sorts of interesting places we each saw over the years.


Quote of the Week
Tomorrow I’m off to New Hampshire. I may do a field trip during the day on Friday before setting up for Birka. We’ll see. There are ghosts up there too. In some ways, I’m one of them, ghosting through the miles.

Carry all those phantoms
Through bitter wind and stormy skies
From the desert to the mountain
From the lowest low to the highest high
Like a ghost rider
– Rush, Ghost Rider

News and Works in Progress
– I’ve overcome some of the challenges and made great progress on Where Now the Rider. Smooth sailing for a bit until I figure out the right order to arrange the climactic scenes.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

  • 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
  • 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
  • 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS
  • 28-30 April: Planet Comicon, Kansas City, MO


I had a great conversation with Melissa Gay at the LibertyCon party this weekend. I especially love her starscapes, but she is a great artist and you can find her work at: http://www.melissagay.com/

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

Weekly Update Archive

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

John Reid Howell (1940-2017)

My dad passed away Sunday morning. Mom and I expected it to happen, as he chose not to have surgery that would have increased the quantity of his life but reduced the quality.
He was a good man who had a quietly interesting life. Served in the Army as a redleg. Lived in Mississippi in turbulent times, once waiting with his landlord holding rifles on their laps on the road that led to the black church also on the landlord’s property. Lost out on a PhD by cruel timing, but in the end, that led him to computers where he had a much better life than he would have. Wrote the enrollment software in 1971 for Hill Junior College from scratch, and worked for many years in Artificial Intelligence. Decided to bring Kansas to the internet in the early 90s by making over 300 websites, including one for each town in Kansas and uploading a large collection of Kansas poetry. He did this for years until finally Boeing loaned him to the state of Kansas to do this officially. There’s lots more.
He gave me many things, especially a love of reading. There are hundreds of you out there who have scrolls on your walls with texts that I have written. Those don’t happen without him.
I’ll miss him. I got to say goodbye last Wednesday before starting this trip, knowing it might happen while I was gone. I’ll still miss him.
We all agreed I should continue, though. Sunday, I found an interesting place to eat in Chattanooga. He gave me a passion to try out new restaurants. Yesterday, I came to Frederick, MD on my way towards Birka. I’ll see some places I’ve never been before. I get my wanderlust and desire to see what’s on the other side of the hill from him too.
Mom is doing as well as can be hoped. She was with him, and they talked about the cats they had and moments in their life until he slipped away. She also has a wonderful support group at Larksfield Place, where such moments are all too frequent. I’ll be going there immediately after Birka and staying as long as needed.
Many of you will want to offer condolences here. I’d rather you didn’t. Feel free to hit one of the Facebook likes, but if you’re reading this, I know you are sympathetic and I thank you.
Instead, I’d really appreciate if you did something nice for someone. Something small. Don’t care what. Buy someone coffee. He liked coffee. Buy someone a beer. He liked beer more. Or just help someone carry a load of stuff. He was a good man, who would like the idea of nice things done in his memory.